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Government issues guidance on driving while taking prescription drugs

The Government has issued new guidelines for healthcare professionals ahead of changes to legislation on people driving while taking prescription drugs.

The Department for Transport guidelines state that while it is already an offence to drive whilst impaired by drugs, the new offence will make it illegal to drive or to attempt to drive while over a generally prescribed limit.

They include information about the ‘medical defence’, which will allow patients to avoid prosecution if they can demonstrate they have taken drugs in accordance with their doctor’s instructions if they are found to be over the limit.

Limits for a list of 16 controlled substances were agreed in March this year, following consultation with a panel of medical and scientific experts, and are set at a level where a road safety risk could feasibly arise.

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Eight of the drugs on the list are prescription-only and include benzodiazapines like diazepam and clonazepam, as well as opiates like methadone and morphine.

Recommended limits for amphetamine are currently being reconsidered to ensure that patients taking medication for ADHD are not affected.

The guidelines mark the beginning of a drive to make the medical profession aware of the new drug driving offence, which comes into effect in March 2015. A wider communications campaign will start later this year.

A full list of the drugs and their limits can be found on the Government’s website.